BOSTON -- The three times Boston College and Northeastern squared off this season, the Eagles managed three league wins, all by one-goal margins. The fourth time, it wasn't a contest.
In the nightcap of the opening round of the Beanpot tournament at TD Garden, the Eagles (17-10-1, 12-7-1 Hockey East) throttled the Huskies, grabbing a 2-1 first period lead and then hitting the accelerator on their way to a 7-1 win that wasn't as close as the score. The victory sets up a classic BC-Boston University showdown in the Beanpot championship game next Monday. The Eagles are bidding for their third straight Beanpot crown, and 17th overall, while the Terriers look for title No. 30 in the tournament's 60th edition.
"They outplayed us, they outcoached, us, they wanted it more than us," said NU first-year coach Jim Madigan. "Right from the get-go, they just took it to us, and we couldn't get going."
Last year, the teams met in a scintillating Beanpot final, with BC prevailing, 7-6, in overtime. This year, only one team brought the offense. The Eagles were led by freshman Johnny Gaudreau (two goals, assist), junior Steven Whitney (two goals, assist), senior Paul Carey (two goals), and senior alternate captain Barry Almeida (goal, assist).
"They're a very good team," said Madigan. "They play the game fast, and we just didn't play to their tempo at all. We got schooled today. Bad."
Turnovers proved costly for the Huskies, who found themselves down 2-0 early. At 5:14, BC's Pat Mullane stripped NU's Josh Manson of the puck by the Huskies blueline, and Gaudreau scooped it up before cutting into the slot, where he dropped a soft back pass to a trailing Paul Carey. Carey pushed an off-speed shot on net that seemed to handcuff NU goaltender Chris Rawlings, beating him glove side for a 1-0 BC lead.
Gaudreau struck again at 9:43, taking advantage of another Northeastern miscue. When Huskies defenseman Luke Eibler fanned on a clearing pass, Gaudrea swooped in, grabbed the puck, sliced across the low slot ahead of Eibler and slid a backhander between Rawlings' legs for a 2-0 BC lead.
Northeastern showed some signs of life, when the Huskies struck for a power-play goal to cut the BC lead to 2-1 at 12:34. With Whitney in the box for roughing, NU's Anthony Bitetto took a pass from Ludwig Karlsson and just unloaded a slap shot that beat BC's Parker Milner (22 saves) short side. With less than a minute to go, Rawlings (24 saves) preserved the one-goal margin with a great double-pad stack save to deny Gaudreau. The goal, and the save, proved to be the only highlights of the evening for Northeastern.
The Eagles hit the afterburners in the second period, ringing up three unanswered goals, including two short-handed tallies, and narrowly missing on a few more quality bids.
"I thought that was the breaking [point], that really got us going, the two short-handed goals in the second period," said BC coach Jerry York. "I thought our team came out and played very well in the second and third periods."
At 6:51, with the Eagles playing a man down, Bitetto failed to keep the puck in at the BC blueline, and Almeida simply took off after it down the right boards. When NU's Karlsson hustled back to cover, Almeida feathered a picture-perfect cross-ice pass to a trailing Whitney, and the junior from Reading, Mass., blistered a one-timer past Rawlings' blocker.
"We've got some players good offensive instincts," said York of his team's second-period burst. "They can make something out of nothing."
Two minutes later, Gaudreau got in the act again. When Rawlings couldn't redirect BC defenseman Patch Alber's slap shot into the corner, Gaudreau, crashing the net, tapped the gift into the Northeastern net for a 4-1 BC lead.
Whitney, atoning for his earlier penalty, got BC's second short-handed goal of the period with an unassisted tally at 13:11. Breaking in on yet another 2-on-1, Whitney's pass to linemate Almeida was blocked by Bitetto. When the puck bounced back to him, Whitney hesitated for a half second before coolly ripping a shot top corner over Rawlings' glove for his second of the night.
NU sophomore Clay Witt (15 saves) relieved Rawlings in the third, but the damage was done. BC stretched its lead to 6-1 at 8:47 of the final period. BC defender Brian Dumoulin sent a slap shot past the net and against the backboards, and the rebound fell to Almeida parked at the right side of the net. Before Witt could recover, Almeida tapped the puck home.
Carey got his second of the night, and completed the semifinal scoreline, when he tipped home a wrist shot sent from the slot by BC's Isaac MacLeod for a power-play strike at 17:20. With the win, BC's York improves to 23-12 in the Beanpot. Next Monday, the Eagles will aim to even up their coach's Beanpot finals record, which now stands at 5-6.
"Every Beanpot final is exciting," said Whitney, who has yet to lose a Beanpot game at BC. "Playing BU is a bit of a bonus."
Brion O'Connor covers college hockey for ESPNBoston.com.